Nearly sixty years ago, after the devastation and turmoil of the Second World War, the NATO alliance was formed to defend the United States and Western Europe against the Soviet Communist threat. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the demise of Communism in Eastern Europe, NATO has increasingly participated in missions outside of Europe, most notably in the Balkans, Afghanistan, and Iraq. NATO now plans to undertake its first mission in Africa.
Alliance members have agreed to help transport African peacekeepers to the Darfur region of Sudan. They have also agreed to provide support for personnel and training for the African Union peacekeeping mission there.
Fighting broke out in Darfur in 2003. Complaining of discrimination by Arab Sudanese, African Sudanese rebels attacked government facilities. Sudanese Arab Janjaweed militia supported by the Sudanese government responded by attacking members of Darfur's Fur, Masalit, and Zaghawa tribes. Since then, tens of thousands of people have died in the region, many from hunger and disease. About two-million Sudanese from Darfur have fled their homes. NATO Secretary General Jaap De Hoop Scheffer describes NATO's role:
"These people need help, the people in Darfur need help, and the African Union is providing the help. So, NATO and the E-U are doing everything we can to answer the request by the African Union."
Elsewhere, NATO forces continue to provide security in Afghanistan. With Afghan parliamentary and provincial elections scheduled for September, NATO members have agreed to increase the number of troops in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force. In Iraq, NATO plans to open a new officer training center southeast of Baghdad. The facility will help Iraqi officers develop military doctrine for Iraqi forces and institutionalize democratic civil-military relations. When fully operational, it will train one-thousand Iraqi officers annually.
"NATO," said U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, "holds great promise today, greater than in some time. Indeed, this historic alliance is working in ways that it has never before, expanding its membership and expanding our global responsibilities."
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.